Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Transgender Girl Comes Out at Work

This weekend, I was running errands in a kind of androgynous mode. No wig, light makeup, girls's jeans, girls' hoodie, girls' jacket. Not quite presenting totally dressed up female, but definitely not male either. Walking down the street in my Brooklyn neighborhood I thought to myself "I guess I'm full time now." It wasn't some grand big thing, me coming out full time. It just sort happened. Well, more like it evolved over time. If you had asked me ten years ago what I thought my coming out full time would involve I would have imagined grand ceremonies, burning boy clothes, a giant party, who knows what. Instead, in the end, it just sort of happened. Another mundane thing on a mundane day.

Yesterday, was Monday, November 21st, 2016. It was a huge, amazing day for me and in the end it felt mundane too. Yesterday was my first day working at my job as a woman.

Settle in. This is gonna be a long one...

My regular readers will know that I came out to HR recently, and started working with management, HR and Legal on how I would come out. There were meetings. There were plans. There were documents to review. There were panic attacks. In the end, I decided on November 21st as my first girl day, partly because it was, at the time, pretty far away, and also because it was the week of Thanksgiving. That meant that if it all went horribly, I would at least only have a three day week to worry about. In the end, it was determined that they'd send out a memo organization-wide, and then conduct some other training for key staff in the coming months. Since the memo was going out on a Wednesday, I took that day, plus the following Thursday and Friday off. Honestly, I just didn't want to be there when the memo went out. I could imagine it showing up in inboxes and suddenly every head turning to stare at me.

Plus hey, five day weekend. It was a busy weekend. I went and saw Letters to Cleo play live. It was amazing show and they've been one of my favorite bands for practically two decades and I'd never seen them play. Good times.

How shining is Veda? Veda is very shining. 
I went and got a my hair styled, got a new manicure, hung out with friends, went to a co-workers' birthday shindig so she could meet girl-me ahead of time, and spent a bunch of time nervous, anxious and gripped with fear because on Monday I was going to put on a skirt and a wig, do my makeup and then walk into my office and expect people to take me seriously. There was dread and there were nightmares. There were doubts, fear, anxiety. It had gripped me for months, inspiring worry about getting fired, ruining my career, or ruining my life. I worried that I wasn't even transgender, that this wasn't something I could do. It all led up to Monday morning.

Monday morning. I'd set the alarm early, for 6:45am and promptly hit snooze a couple times. Yes, my first decision of the day was to continue in an unconscious state.

Eventually I did get up out of bed. I put on my clothes; a professional looking skirt with black tights and ankle boots, a nice red top and cardigan. I did my makeup in the same kind of basic, light makeup look that I've been practicing and I opened up a brand new shiny wig, fresh from the package.

And of course, this happens...

And then the temperature drops to freezing. You know, it was 70F like four days ago. What the hell, universe. Give a trans girl a chance! So, I bundled up and headed out the door.

Honestly, there wasn't much nervousness as I headed to the subway. I resisted the urge to snap selfies along the way. A part of me felt the day, a day this momentous, needed some serious documentation. But then also, stopping to snap selfies would do nothing but draw attention to me. Plus the light probably wasn't even good. Certainly none of the other commuters were stopping to take souvenir photos of their slog into work. So, my morning would go unrecorded.

After a half hour I got to my building and wouldn't you know it, my card didn't work. I worked this hard to come out as me and now I can't even get in the building. What if they fired me over the weekend and that's why my card doesn't work? Actually it was my old boy card. So I had to go up to security and yes, my first activity of my first girl work day, was showing someone my boy ID. Lovely. Well, security gave me a temporary pass and said my new card was waiting for me upstairs. 

Up the elevator I went and into my office. Really, there was no nervousness. It had all gone. Maybe my brain figured it had worried enough, the Rubicon had been crossed, and it was too late to worry. So I was kinda blank, just whatever, as I walked in. Same as I always walk in.

First I got a gigantic, surprised smile from the receptionist. "Hi, Faith!" she greeted me excitedly as though she had been waiting forever to see me. I smiled back, did my best girliest "hi" back and headed over to my desk. Generally, I'm one of the first people in the office, so it's not uncommon for me to come in and find a ghost town. So, there was a ghost town. It was empty. That was nice. And there were flowers waiting for me at my desk. That was nice too.

Flowers! The first time I've ever gotten surprise desk flowers!
Well, sat down at my computer. I'd been out for five days and had plenty of voicemails and emails to catch up on. Only I couldn't log in. My password didn't work. Maybe I was fired after all. Maybe they were "you're fired" roses. Apparently not, because then the head of HR came over and said she had paperwork for me to fill out. If there's one thing I've learned about gender transition is that there is paperwork involved. HR said they wanted me to feel welcome and I resisted making any snarky comments about building IDs or passwords. She said my coming out email went well and that everyone was super supportive.

As people came in I got a lot of big smiles, a few hugs, many, many compliments on how great I looked. There were a few people who came by my desk specifically to meet the transgirl or to officially welcome me, but everyone was really nice and friendly and cool about things. Everyone called me my new name and gendered me 100% correctly. A few people even pre-preemptively apologized in case they messed up accidentally.

It didn't take very long at all for people to shift from "you look fantastic" to "where's the TPS reports?" So that was good. I did what I always did and sat down and started working. Actually I got a lot of work done. My partner says having a task helps relieve anxiety. You know, you're brain is so occupied with work that it doesn't have time to worry about things.

There was however one thing I did out of nervousness. I limited my liquid intake. That way the bathroom wouldn't be an issue. Well, that sort of worked until about 11am and then I had to go. Now the problem was that I didn't have a code for bathroom access. So, I had to walk into HR and ask them. Having the code for the ladies room given to me definitely made me feel better. You know, it was like I actually belonged there. I even ran into coworkers at the sink and they were super nice and friendly. Plus, I must admit that I do much prefer the privacy of the stalls in the womens' room. So much more user friendly than the gross mens' room. 

Then around 3pm or 4pm in the afternoon, I kind of had a feeling come over me. It was a feeling of like "this has gone great. Today has been fantastic." What I think I loved about it was that it felt so utterly ordinary and mundane. Like it was just another day at the office and the only thing different was that I was a girl now. And even me being a girl seemed sort of like a non-issue. It was a non-event. The whole day felt like a non-event. That made me super happy. It was another ordinary day in the office, only I was rocking a skirt! I sort of couldn't even believe I'd ever worried. 

And of course I worry about things and will keep worrying. People's attitudes can change, their opinion of me can change, who knows what the future holds. But for now, it feels nice to be at work and be me. I feel good about this.

In fact, I felt so good that around 4:30pm or 5pm I stopped for a few minutes, found an empty office, and snapped a bunch of selfies (you can see them throughout this post). Not for more than two or three minutes. But enough to show that I was here, enough to document this experience. It's real. It happened. I did it. I overcame my fears.

And then I showed up today and did it all over again.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Brooklyn feels right to me. I've lived here for almost five years now. But more interesting to me is the fact that I can trace my Brooklyn ancestry back at least five generations on both sides of my family. My mom's family's been here since the 1870s and they first lived only a few blocks from me. My dad's family goes back to the 1830s and they're a little further away they're still less than a mile. Sometimes I walk by the houses I now know and feel like I'm at home. As an Army BRAT who grew up without roots, home feels right.

But Brooklyn wasn't always my New York home. Before I moved to Brooklyn I spent a decade in Astoria, Queens. Queens has been getting a much cooler since I left but when I moved into Astoria it felt like working class neighborhood full of different immigrants from all over the world. You could could walk down the street hear a hundred different langues. Even more fun was try cuisines from a hundred different countries and learn the subtle differences between the Northern and Southern Egyptian restaurants or between the Creation and Serbian diets. Queens, NY is quite literally the most diverse place that has ever existed in human history. And it was my first home in NYC.

The Unisphere is often the go-to symbol for Queens. Sort of like the Brooklyn Bridge is for Brooklyn or the Empire State Building is for Manhattan. It's shown up in lots of movies like Men in Black and Iron Man.

Invariably it gets destroyed. Like all landmarks in movies. 
There was one winter in NYC a few years ago. It was Christmastime. I'd just ended a relationship, my friends were all travelling and a freak blizzard came up on the day I was to fly to see family for the holidays. Flights were so messed up and the airline options so bad, I just said 'screw it' and stayed home. But, that left me with a good week alone during the holidays, at a time when I wasn't exactly feeling peachy.

Though, I'd just gotten a bike, so I thought it would be fun to bike out to Flushing Meadows, a part of NYC I'd never seen even though it was iconic part of my neighborhood and the site of two World's Fairs. As I was new to biking in NYC, a five mile trip from Astoria to Flushing seemed like an epic journey. But I undertook it. 

Then, after a half hour of peddling through the snow and ice, I finally saw the Unisphere in the distance! I'd made it!

The remnants of the old World's Fair ground are still there and they're epic in scale. It's quite amazing to see actually. I spent a freezing day by myself exploring the park and the Queens Museum of Art and ended up having a wonderful time. 

Bonus old boy pic.

Now, I've been back to Flushing many times since then, but because of that first time exploring in the winter on my own, the Unisphere has always had a special place in my heart. 

So over the years, I always intended to do a girl photoshoot at the Unisphere but had never really gotten around to it. Partly it's because I moved to Brooklyn and now Flushing, Queens is a much longer trip (about 1.5 hours by subway or 12 miles by bike) I haven't gone back as often.

Recently though, I had an opportunity, albeit a rather brief one. My partner and I wanted to take some friends to our favorite Chinese restaurant, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, in Flushing's Chinatown. Mmm. It's the best. And if we were gonna go there, we figured we'd stop by the Queens Museum of Art to see the NYC Panorama and Flushing Meadows while we were there. 

That meant I could finally get some Unisphere pictures!

As I was with friend, I didn't want to hijack the day and be like "let's stop to take 3,000 photos of me!" Even though that's generally how I ensure that I'll get five or six good ones. So, instead I only took about ten, but it was still pretty fun.

One of these days when there's nice weather, I'll get dressed up, maybe in a cool 1960s retro outfit, hire a photographer and do a real photoshoot out there. In the meantime though, I'm happy I was at least able to finally get a couple pics of me and my favorite NYC landmark. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Officially, Legally Me

Yes, you read that correctly. Unless you didn't actually read it correctly, in which case I should better explain this. See, I am now legally and quite officially me. The sovereign government of the United States of America, the very same government that landed on the Moon and split the atom, recognizes me as an official girl with an official girl name. Government issued paperwork lists my gender as "F."


As joyful as I may look in the above photo, I must say that his process wasn't entirely joyful. I mean, seriously, there's a reason the DMV is the go-to place when 1980s comedians needed jokes about long lines and awful service. But no mere bureaucracy can stop me. If I were to make my own character sheet for the 1987 edition of Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, I would totally give myself a 4D+2 in the bureaucracy skill. Yes, that is how I still think about how to quantify all skills levels in every situation.

Yes, my resume is awesome. 

Well, being the highly organized nerd that I am, I of course had my entire day mapped out. First thing, I planned to be at the DMV on Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan at 9am sharp. I wanted to be there at the exact moment they opened so I would be first in line. Then, with my temporary drivers' licence in hand, I would have the photo ID I needed to go in and change my name on my bank account then stop by the Social Security Administration to get my new name on my card. In between all that I also had to run home at noon to walk my dog and I also had a 1:00pm doctor's appointment that I was hoping would be pretty quick.

Quite frankly, since I started working on full time, all the days I take off work are jam packed like this. But they've worked. They've worked because I'm a highly organized person and I'm good at scheduling. I like to develop a solid plan, stick with it and come out at the end of the day with a giant pile of accomplishments.

Well, I hit a snag. And of course I hit it at 9:03am.


Well, there went my plans. Gone was any thought of hitting multiple banks or the Social Security Administration. So I trudged home, ate an early lunch, walked my dog, went to my doctor's appointment and then finally dragged my thoroughly annoyed self to the very DMV office that I was hoping to avoid - the 31st and 9th Avenue office. It's the worst one. Well, apparently it's not quite as bad as the one in Brooklyn. Plus it was nearby my doctor's office. Close enough anyway.

I'd worked pretty hard on coming up with the perfect DMV photo. I may or may not have even read some websites on how to take the best ID photo. After all, those photos will be with you for years. My guy ID photo is from like 2004 and I still have it. It was actually a good picture too. I really didn't want to trade a great photo for a crappy one, even if it is finally of me as a girl.

So, I did my hair in such a way that it would be mostly out of my face. Those of you who read my blog regularly (and that had better be all of you!) will know that I like to keep my hair hanging down in my face. I feel like I pass better that way. So hair out of the face, while it would make a better quality picture, might make me look more boyish. Luckily, I was able to put together a pretty good hair style that hid my face a little but not too much. Then I did a some pretty good makeup with a hopefully subdued look to it. Though I did opt for the darker lip color as I still can't quite figure out how to do a nude lip look correctly.

Then I topped that off with a low cut dark green top. I figured that if my clothing were to show up in the photo, I wanted it to be obvious that I was wearing a woman's top and not a T-shirt or something that could potentially be masculine. Plus I added some tasteful earrings and then a sparkly headband to both keep my hair in place and to add sparkle to my outfit. I'm a girl now - I can sparkle!

Pictured; Sparkling. 
Also I brought my glasses just in case I needed to do an eye test. I also brought my old ID, the DMV replacement license form, my Social Security card, my passport, the letter from my doctor certifying that I was a chick, and an original copy of my certified name change order. I was set!

So I headed up there, walked to the wrong location, then walked two or three avenues over to the right location, hoped that my hair didn't get too messed up by the wind, went into the DMV, told the first clerk that I was there to change my name and gender marker and they issued me a numbered ticket. Yay!

Then, I went and found a seat and by the time I sat down I realized that I had already lost of my ticket. Way to go, girl.

So I got another ticket. It only took about twenty minutes to get called for my photo. Excited, I hopped up to the desk and took off my coat and cardigan. The clerk looked over my paperwork and a few seconds later was like "Alright, step back for your photo." I stood against the wall, trying my best to make sure I had a normal face on and that my head was being held in a way that didn't make me look like I had a double chin. I tried to smile and look nice. But then the clerk was like "Oh, brush your hair out of your face." Which I did quickly, but with no idea as to how it looked! I just had to kind of run with it. All the prep work I had done to make my hair look great was undone with one quick gesture.

Hopefully it'll come out okay. I have no idea. Honestly, why don't they show you the photo then? Why can't they give you like a couple do-overs? Would that really take that much longer? Why aren't we able to submit our own photos like for passports? Ah well.

He said to wait for your number to be called again and then you can go up and pay. Then, he added rather oddly "The P in your number might show up as an R." What? Okay. So, I sat back down, watching the numbers on the little TVs, listening to each being called and waiting for P740. Or R740. After about forty minutes of listening to someone snore and hoping my phone battery wouldn't die, they ended up calling B740. B740. Was that me? They called it a couple more times as though B740 wasn't stepping up. So, I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask. Wouldn't you know it. I was apparently B740. So sometimes it changes Ps to Rs and Bs.

Well, I paid my money, made absolutely sure they changed both my gender marker and my name (no one wants to go back again), and collected my temporary license. It had my new name and my gender listed as F!!! Yay!!!

Now, sadly it still had my eyes listed as grey. Even though I put green on my form, they kept the grey that's on my old ID. At some point some bureaucrat must have put GR to mean green and some other bureaucrat must have read it and thought grey. My eyes aren't grey! They were never grey. They're green! Ah well, I'll have to live with it because I'm not waiting another two hours to get the DMV to list my eye color correctly.

In seven to ten days I'll get my new ID and hopefully my picture came out okay. I'm taking three days off later this month so that I don't have to be there when everyone at the company finds out that I'm transgender. One of those days I'll spend going to banks and other government agencies getting all the rest of my paperwork taken care of. One down, many to go.

It was a little after 4pm when I got out of the DMV, so I figured it would be fun to walk over near my girlfriend's work so we could have a drink at happy hour to celebrate. Of course, she doesn't get out until 5pm, so I did have an opportunity for a few celebratory selfies.

Good times.

Good times indeed. 

And now for an update....

I got my license in the mail finally. And my picture is....okay. It's not bad. I've seen worse. Yay!